Futuremark today has released their newest suite of benchmarks, simply called 3DMark. This benchmark is comprised of three different benchmarks with three very different goals. The first benchmark is designed to help compare different mobile platforms' gaming capabilities in Direct3D 9 level features and the second is designed to do the same for tablets and laptops. with Direct3D level 10. These two benchmarks are not quite complete yet because the Android, iOS and Windows 8 RT versions are not quite available yet, so only x86 based systems can actually run these tests at the moment. Futuremark has indicated that they development of the Android, iOS and Windows RT versions is essentially complete and they will be rolling them out in a series of releases in the weeks and months following today's release.
Ice storm is designed to be the cross-platform benchmark, which can be run on Windows, Windows RT, Android and iOS. The second benchmark, Cloud Gate, can only be run on Windows RT and Windows, which indicates the focus on tablets and laptops (to a degree). And finally, Fire Strike, the most graphically intensive test, also is limited to Windows and Windows RT.
Since Fire Strike is the most graphically intensive benchmark, we could not help ourselves but take all of the cards that we had and bench them against eachother in this benchmark. We figured that this new DX11 benchmark, Fire Strike, would actually help re-evaluate the performance claims of the different graphics card vendors. After all, anyone in the industry will admit that drivers are a huge part of how a graphics card performs in games.
The Fire Strike benchmark is different from it's predecessor, 3DMark 11 in many ways. First, the default resolution is actually 1920 x 1080, up from 1280 x 720 in 3DMark 11. Additionally, the extreme benchmark now bumps the resolution up from 1920 x 1080 in 3DMark 11 to 2560 x 1440 in the Extreme Fire Strike benchmark.
The extreme test of Fire Strike, as stated by Futuremark, requires 1.5GB of VRAM to run and is intended to be used with extremely high-end graphics card solutions, including multi-GPU SLI/CFX as well as future single card solutions. Since we wanted to go for the most intensive graphics test without being incredibly picky with settings. This did, however, make the GTX 650 look incredibly bad compared to the rest of the competition as it does not have enough RAM to fulfill the 1.5GB VRAM allocation.
Fire Strike is made up of four different tests, two graphics tests, a physics test, and a combined test that unifies both graphics and physics into one incredibly strenuous test. The first graphical test is designed to test geometry and illumination, this is done using hundreds of spot lights that both cast and don't cast shadows. The second graphical test is designed to test particles and GPU simulations by using lots of smoke and spot lights to create detailed scenes that also heavily stress the GPU. The third test is the physics test, and it is designed to put the least amount of stress on the GPU as possible and to focus more on the CPU utilizing the Bullet Open Source Physics Engine Library. The final test, the combined test, in fact combines elements of all of the previous three tests. In addition to that, it does these things using tesselation, volumetric illumination, fluid simulation, particule simulation, FFT based bloom and depth of field.
Now, to take a look at our results. As you can see below, we didn't test that many AMD graphics cards. That is primarily because our 7850 died in the process of testing and we never got a 7950 from AMD nor any of their board partners. Their mistake is unfortunately your loss.
Continuing further, we also wanted to remind you that the extreme test is running at a native resolution of 2560x1440, which should affect the performance difference between Nvidia and AMD considering that AMD's cards fundamentally perform better in higher resolution scenarios. However, Nvidia has been notorious for outperforming AMD in previous versions of 3DMark for quite some time, so these results did catch us a bit off guard at first.
As you can clearly see in our results, the AMD HD 7970 just barely edges out the Nvidia GTX 680 in terms of performance in this benchmark. Additionally, HD7970's in Cross Fire perform significantly better in 3DMark than their GTX 680 counterparts in SLI, even though the performance difference with one cards was almost none. The difference between the 680 and 7970was literally a matter of 48 points in a test where both cards scores over 3000 points, indicating a difference of slightly over 1%. We also saw the Gigabyte 1GHz overclocked HD7970 beating EVGA's GTX 680 Classified card, which we found almost shocking. Do note, that this Gigabyte card is not a GHz edition 7970, which is actually a faster card (about 1,1100 MHz).
Now, in SLI vs. CFX, we had SLI GTX 680s score 5312 and CrossFire HD 7970s score 5780. This is a much bigger difference than what we saw with the single cards. This difference comes out to about 8%, which is definitely considered significantly bigger than the 1% difference with just one card.
Taking the prices of these GPUs into consideration, the Gigabyte 1GHz overclocked HD 7970 sells for $379.99 and scores as the fastest single GPU in our 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme benchmark, even though, the GTX 680 Classified has more VRAM and is supposed to be faster at $599.99. Looking at the rest of the market, the HD 7970's cheapest variant (on Newegg) is in fact the Gigabyte card, and the cheapest GTX 680 is $449.99. This still represents a price difference of $70 even though the GTX 680 is just a tad slower than the HD 7970. HD 7970 walks all over the similarly priced GTX 670, albeit, there are some cheaper GTX 670 versions than the cheapest HD 7970 on Newegg.
Needless to say, this new 3DMark has definitely brought out some surprises and we look forward to using it when the new GK-110 based Kepler desktop cards come from Nvidia and Sea Islands from AMD. We hope to use most of the new 3DMark as the Android, iOS and Windows RT versions begin to roll out. We will continue to update you on the progress as it develops.
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